Friday, 6 September 2013

Challenges of a Rural Development Organization

By Sunday Lizu, 2nd year MDP student

Locally run development organizations can have the same challenges as any other organization but there are challenges they face that are unique to their circumstances. Having spent time with a locally run development organization, I would not claim expertise at understanding these organizations but I have quite some experience working with community led organizations. Effective and efficient operations and organizational management can pose quite a challenge to community based organizations and at the core of these is the lack of qualified and capable human resource. It is very important that local organizations are managed by the local people themselves to determine the direction of the organization and meet their set goals and objectives. Apart from this, local organizations also serve as sources of employment for the local people. However, the dilemma remains that of finding qualified individuals in the local communities who will fit into the positions and be able to deliver in line with the vision, mission, goals and objectives of the organization.
The 2013 graduating class of the Bina Hill Youth Learning Centre

The challenge of human and social development today is that many development programmes fail because they are planned and delivered by experts that do not reside in the local areas. This top-down model of delivering development to disadvantaged communities has been challenged on the basis that it does not really meet the demands of the communities and do not usually capture the participation of the community members who feel not part of the programme. The paradigm shift in development programming now demands that any programs that are aimed at enhancing the livelihoods of people in disadvantaged areas should allow for the participation of the same people from inception (planning) to implementation. This process requires consultation with the intended beneficiaries and so far, development programmes that have involved the intended beneficiaries in the process of planning and implementation have had a very high rate of success. However, it is not an easy challenge for most development organizations and professionals to completely involve local communities in the planning processes as this implies that the whole process takes longer and more resources are needed to do so.

Sunday (C - back) with some members of staff of the COBRA project of the NRDDB

Low literacy levels in the local communities manifest themselves in different ways and hinder the effective participation of the communities in the planning and implementation processes of these development programs. Local communities can improve their livelihoods in many different ways and many local communities are appreciating the support they are receiving to improve their livelihoods through the provision of social amenities and the improvement of their socio-economic status. My own observations have been that, although the education standards in most of these communities are low leading to a lack of qualified local individuals to run local development organizations, capacity building programmes for effective management have helped in closing the literacy gaps and developing local man power to run development programmes efficiently.  The North Rupununi District Development Board in Guyana is one organization with many challenges related to effective management and operations. However, these challenges exist mostly at the senior management level as the junior staff work hard enough to deliver in their respective positions. All the project staff in the organization are members of the local communities and most have not finished their secondary school education but capacity building programmes and on-the-job training programmes have allowed the local youth to deliver for the organization, serving their communities while earning a livelihood for themselves. Yes, human resources can be a huge challenge for locally run community development organizations but it is a challenge that can be overcome through empowerment programmes that improve the capacity of the local people.  

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